ONE WEEK ONLY

by Erin on August 19, 2009


COPA archive Advance 7827

For ONE WEEK ONLY the Commercial Pattern Archive at the University of Rhode Island is offering free online access! Login with the username "guest" and the password "pattern".

COPA has about 48,000 vintage patterns (including the small scale pattern piece images!) dating from 1868—2000. Believe me when I say you can be there ALL DAY. (Instructions for searching their archive are here.)

The cost for a full subscription, for individuals, is $120/year — a bit pricey. But think of what you can find out in a week!

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

Garnet August 19, 2009 at 9:44 am

Oooh! Thank you for letting us know! Ill be wasting a lot of time this week, it seems!

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Sarah August 19, 2009 at 10:04 am

Wow! Thank you so much for the tip. A busy week looms…..

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Packrat August 19, 2009 at 11:03 am

Thank you. Oh my, I had other things planned for this week. LOL

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Charles August 19, 2009 at 11:10 am

I see that they also have 3-month and 6-month subscriptions available, for a proportionately smaller cost. Also one can get the collection on four CDs for $360. Maybe not an option for many individuals, but if your local sewing guild has a library and everyone could pitch in $20 …

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Erin August 19, 2009 at 11:20 am

The only problem with the CDs is that they dont work on Macs. :-(

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Sara August 19, 2009 at 11:26 am

Excellent! Thanks!

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Lisette August 19, 2009 at 12:00 pm

The other problem with the CDs is that they have a less than half the images the online database gives you.I know lots of sewing groups are splitting the costs up between themselves.

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Miss Amelina August 19, 2009 at 1:20 pm

I have died and gone to heaven….for a week, at least.

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Kate in England August 19, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Wow, that is an INCREDIBLE resource – thank you so much for posting the link.

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Mary August 19, 2009 at 1:54 pm

Am I missing something here? I can see pictures of the dresses, but what I really want is instructions on how to put the pieces together….

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bethany August 19, 2009 at 2:05 pm

Thats what I am wondering too-are these just for looking at or can I actually use these patterns? And how?Thanks!

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harthad August 19, 2009 at 2:25 pm

The FAQs indicate that you can enlarge the images of the pattern pieces and drape them yourself to recreate the garment. So it would appear that no instructions are available online. Still fun to look at them all, though.

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Kelli August 19, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Thank you! Ive managed to waste several hours today already. :)I doubt these had instructions to begin with (or only very rudimentary ones). I have some German sewing magazines that come with the patterns stapled into the middle, and they have thorough directions like:attach sleeves and construct bodice I guess they expect a lot of knowledge (and luck!) :)

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Cookie August 19, 2009 at 6:42 pm

I think I read at some pattern history site that maybe until the 1940s, many patterns didnt have instructions, or even markings on the patterns for darts or seam allowances…or anything! It was just a society where women sewed for themselves all the time (especially during the Depression), and it was just assumed the customer knew how to put in hems, finish seams, create gathers, place button holes, etc. etc. Women were taught how to sew by their moms and grandmas, and in junior and senior high school. And many went to 2-year finishing schools instead of college, all but the most ritzy of which were geared toward turning out a charming, gracious, somewhat-cultured, and CAPABLE homemaker who could at the least run up her own curtains and dresses…and maybe slipcovers for extra credit. Knowing sewing and cooking and housekeeping was these ladies JOB!

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Anonymous August 19, 2009 at 8:57 pm

What pattern # is that on the link picture? That is perfect for some fabric I have. :)

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Ivalyn "Tee" Jones-Actie August 19, 2009 at 9:50 pm

oh my, I saw so many patterns from when I was in Jr.High…I even saw my 1979 sr prom gown…brought tears to my eyes!!!!!!!

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Oldpatterns August 19, 2009 at 10:05 pm

I was able to visit there a few years ago. Joy Emery is very nice! Ive worked with her on a few research projects.

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Erin August 19, 2009 at 11:18 pm

That pattern is Advance 7827 …

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Grateful Gramma August 19, 2009 at 11:57 pm

I was wondering about instructions also. I am a VERY novice sewer (sew-er? seamstress??) but would love to be able to make some of these for my granddaughter. Not at all sure my skills are enough to drape the patterns though, whatever that means. Any suggestions from anyone? I thought about trying to enlarge the pieces but not even sure how to go about that to get them the right size.LOVE the pictures on the site so any help would be greatly appreciated!

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harthad August 20, 2009 at 12:28 am

Grateful Gramma–If youre a novice, just go to one of the many great vintage pattern dealers listed here on Erins site, or to ebay, and buy a pattern with real pieces and real instructions! Seriously, attempting to recreate any of these a teeny-tiny picture will only lead to tears. Draping is what fashion designers when they are creating a clothing design from scratch–working with muslin pieces draped on a dress form to determine the right shape and size. I consider my sewing skill level to be moderate, and I dont remotely have the chops to do it. Once you hit the 1940s-50s, youll find that most patterns have decent instructions. Or, try one of the reissued vintage patterns from one of the big pattern companies; theyre often re-tooled for modern fit and techniques.

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hathad August 20, 2009 at 12:30 am

bleh, should have said, attempting to recreate any of these FROM a teeny-tiny picture… Sorry.

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Grateful Gramma August 20, 2009 at 1:04 am

Thanks, hathad. Thats what I feared…. :-( It did seem too good to be true. But still lots of pretty pictures to look at, I guess.

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sarah August 20, 2009 at 9:08 am

Kathleen at Fashion Incubator has brought up a group subscription idea…looks like if she got 30 people it would be something like $8 a year, with 100 it would be less than $4! Surely we could get at least 30 people to do this…I need way more than a week!!

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Cookie August 20, 2009 at 11:28 am

Is it asking Erin too much to compile a list of willing group members, if we email her individually? This is, of course, the rebirth of the International Sewing Conspiracy. (We might need a link to the Conspiracys murky and shrouded history somewhere here, for readers who werent here when the shocking allegations rained down. Maybe we can build a profile entry at an indexed conspiracy research site?)

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Erin August 20, 2009 at 12:11 pm

I have to admit I was treating COPA as a giant shopping list, more than as a source for actual patterns to sew with. :-)If folks want to do a group rate, Im up for it. Ive set up a google group, click on the link to ask to join. http://groups.google.com/group/copa_coop?pli=1

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Vegan August 20, 2009 at 1:59 pm

Regarding instructions, I have some Butterick patterns from the 1930s that say they include the new Delineator. The Delineator was a set of instructions, so including sewing instructions with a sewing pattern must have been a new idea at the time.

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sarah August 20, 2009 at 3:24 pm

Im in! Just signed up. Fingers crossed we get 30!And yeah, Im with you, Erin… ultimate shopping catalog! I could see maybe trying to reproduce some of the simple things, kids aprons or what have you. But mostly….its just going to make me hit ebay.

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Lizzy August 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Oh! thanks for sahring this with us! Honesty I didnt have any idea of what is COPA =/ , but I click on it and I can be here hours and hours looking the patterns, I want to reproduce some, and as you say, we can be there all day!!….the only problem is that right now Im at work heheheheIll joing to the group =)Love your blogg!! =)Greetings from Mexico

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Lizzy August 20, 2009 at 4:07 pm

Oh! thanks for sahring this with us! Honesty I didnt have any idea of what is COPA =/ , but I click on it and I can be here hours and hours looking the patterns, I want to reproduce some, and as you say, we can be there all day!!….the only problem is that right now Im at work heheheheIll joing to the group =)Love your blogg!! =)Greetings from Mexico

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Cookie August 20, 2009 at 6:14 pm

I joined the Conspiracy. And I have $8.00. (Maybe even $10.00, on a good day.)

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brocadegoddess August 20, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Meh, I had a look and you can see the same thing on any vintage pattern website or in those reissued victorian pattern books. And my university has a commercial sewing patterns collections in its clothing and textile collection from which I can trace any of the patterns I wish. Although when youre working with 100 yr old tissue paper, it can take probably almost as long as enlarging those pics, lol.(Univeristy of Alberta, for anyone who might be up and out there ever – its worth making an appointment to get a tour if youre in the area!)

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Chantelle August 21, 2009 at 10:28 am

brocadegoddess, I didnt even know that the UofA had commercial patterns… and Im a graduate of the former Home Economics (now Human Ecology) program! Ill be back in Edmonton in October or November, and Im definitely going to make time to see if I can visit the collection.

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evalyn August 21, 2009 at 11:58 am

Regarding lack of instructions: Every sewer can benefit by some good how to sew books: pattern making, tailoring, basic sewing and garment construction. Its not rocket science, but it is a very individual art. If you can master basic construction, you can do anything after that. But like any art form or craft skill it takes practice, patience, paractice, persistence, practice, vision, practice and a brave heart. Did I mention Practice?If nothing else, find a modern pattern of about the same garment and read those instructions. Measure, cut, fit. Seams are seams and darts are darts, era and genre notwithstanding.

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Amy S August 22, 2009 at 11:48 am

OK I might be missing something – I am using safari and I am unable to get in. What is it exactly that goes into the login and password fields? Thanks!

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Cookie August 22, 2009 at 12:16 pm

login: guest / password: patternThe only way Ive been able to view images is by going to SEARCH and then selecting specific catagories from the menues; i.e., suit, 1960, women.The patterns dont seem to be broken down into different gallaries on their own….

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Anonymous August 22, 2009 at 3:29 pm

Im unable to log in. Weird :/

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sewducky August 22, 2009 at 3:36 pm

I am too, thought it might have just been me.You can make a usable garment with moderate skills. Break it down into bite sized chunks, make a sloper or get patterns that fit with the same styling and go from there. I just did this with some shorts from the 40s and figure Ill really see if I can do it.Id go along with it. I think I have $8 lying around.

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Anonymous August 22, 2009 at 4:13 pm

I could log in yesterday,not today. It was pretty glitchy yesterday, so they probably had too many people logging in and either shut it down or its just messed up.(sorry for anon., cant log in here today, either :/ )betsyhoneyvenom

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Mad Maudlin August 22, 2009 at 6:31 pm

I cant log in either. I click the log in button, username: guest; password: pattern; click log in and it takes me back to the home page. Im really disappointed.

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Pam August 22, 2009 at 6:32 pm

I can log in fine today…but when I click on search the login page comes up again!I thought it was just me – so Im strangely comforted to know others had problems, too. Id been using Firefox but got the same results with Internet Explorer (I know its optimized for Firefox, but thought it was worth a try!)Im up for a group membership! Id love to have access over an extended period of time.

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Sarah August 22, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I cant login either. Perhaps its just a matter of trying again… and again… and again…

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Sarah August 22, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I cant login either. Perhaps its just a matter of trying again… and again… and again…

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MaHubbard August 23, 2009 at 2:10 pm

Their server was down yesterday but its working ok now! (My comment was as Pam yesterday, a few comments up.)

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Anonymous August 23, 2009 at 10:36 pm

I love that dress with white polka dots and the big pockets, oh I love pockets.

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JustGail August 25, 2009 at 7:48 am

Hi -thanks for setting up the group to share a membership!! and for your Dress-A-Day blog, love seeing the vintage patterns/dresses and the stories you and the commenters come up with. Now that Ive signed up for the COPA group, I thought Id better at least take a few seconds to stop in and say hi and thanks!.

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SewCherie August 27, 2009 at 5:27 pm

*sign* couldnt get printer working in time to try and get some stuff printed out. :(Hopefully theyll do this again!

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sewaddicted September 3, 2009 at 10:32 pm

In the next couple of days Ill go join the co-op. I love the huge range … and unlike brocadegoddess others in real life I dont have access in to a catalogue of patterns. its internation shipping to get to me.

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